If you're planning on treating yourself to a new laptop, smartphone or tablet remember not only should you protect your new toy but also prepare your old one for its new home. There are many ways to dispose of old tech, whether it’s donating your old phone to charity or handing down a retired laptop so once you’re ready to shift your digital life to a new secure device, you’ll need to follow a few steps to ensure your old technology has been properly wiped and recycled.

What good is being security conscious if you leave the back door open to anyone to access your most sensitive and private information on an old laptop, smartphone or tablet?

Here are some easy steps to help you clean those old devices and enjoy a carefree digital life:

Back-up your Important Files

If you’ve had your device for some time, put some thought into what files, folders apps or software are important to you. Make a list and copy data to a laptop, usb stick or external hard drive to keep at the ready to make the transition smooth.

Wipe Data Securely

You can’t just throw away your old device in the bin…well, you can, but it’s not a good idea. Your smartphone, laptop and tablet has loads of personal information stored inside: information online criminals would love to get their hands on. Before you get rid of old tech, you’ve got to make sure it has been securely wiped. This is also true of any USB or external hard drives you don’t want anymore.

Reset your smartphone to the factory settings to wipe it clean or if it’s a laptop, first, you’ll need to download an application to erase your mechanical hard drive. You can select specific files to erase or clear the entire hard drive; it’s up to you. If your wiping software asks you to identify the number of passes you would like it to run, three is a sufficient number.

Just follow the instructions on whichever software you prefer and wait for it to do its thing. This can sometimes take a while and you should plan accordingly. If the process is interrupted, it may not be completed so monitor the process

Remember, putting your most private files in the recycle bin is not the same thing as wiping them from the hard drive. These ‘deleted’ files can still be recovered by a professional or stolen by an online criminal, should they gain access to this device

Recycle Old Devices

Once you have successfully wiped your data, the next step is to take your old machine somewhere it can be recycled.

Many stores have a great recycling programs —regardless of where you bought it or how old the machine is, the company will properly dispose of it for free. This also includes recycling for electronic items like VHS recorders, cords, cables, and radios.

Why not consider doing something charitable and donate your old tech to a reputable organization that will more than happily recondition old computers and monitors in any condition, as well as computer accessories. It’s free, and think how you may be helping someone less fortunate than you.

Transferring Data to your New Device

If you backed up your data successfully before you wiped your old tech, putting your files back onto a new device will be a snap. Just plug in your USB or external hard drive and drag your old files onto your new laptop. When copying files back to your smartphone, be choosey and select only the necessary photo’s, files or apps you really need. Anything else you can keep for posterity on your laptop or external drive.

Keep it Secure!

Once you take the plunge and purchase that fancy new device, and all your old data has been replaced, the next step is to secure your new device and all the personal information inside it.

Some new laptops come with a free trial of security software. These are typically only good for a short period of time, and they will likely need to be updated or renewed at some point. Look for home computer security products that will help keep your computer updated and prepared for cyber-attacks such as Norton Security Deluxe that secures multiple PC’s, Macs, smartphones and tablets with a single subscription. Don’t leave your computer unprotected, especially after you went through all the trouble of remembering to upgrade your hardware!

No matter if it’s an old piece of tech or that fancy new upgrade, remember that your digital device and your digital life is all connected so think smart and think Norton Security!